When people think of Kelly Slater, surfing, world title wins and ocean waves spring to mind.
But within the sustainability community, the legendary surf champion is known for so much more. Once sponsored by global surf brand Quicksilver, in 2014, Slater went on to launch sustainable lifestyle brand Outerknown with acclaimed designer John Moore.
“Outerknown was started, quite literally, to challenge the status quo of how clothing is produced and consumed,” Moore shares. “We started Outerknown because Kelly wanted to understand exactly what was going into the clothing we wear and how the people are treated that make our clothing.”
Moore and Slater, a longtime advocate for clean and healthy living, noticed a gap in the market for quality and extremely versatile planet-friendly clothing that eschewed obvious markers of branding.
“A great fitting black tee shirt in a luxuriously-soft cotton without a logo was really hard to find – especially one that was made sustainably. So, we set out to make the exact type of clothing we wanted to wear, with a manufacturing process we understood and believed in,” he explains.
Originally focusing on menswear, Outerknown’s timeless, casual collections have proved popular with understated style-seekers wishing to look good with little effort. Following on from this success, last year the brand released its first women’s collection and by all accounts, is on track to replicate the success of its men’s collection.
“We design without an expiration date. As trends will come and go, Outerknown will always make your favourite pieces that you’ll feel great in today, but also wear for years to come.”
Rejecting extravagance and opting for low-key, nondescript classic cool has been a winning style formula for the American sustainable label. It has found popularity with the new generation of consumer seeking anti-trends and non-exclusivity.
The brand offers a wide men’s range, from comfy board shorts, soft shirts, cosy sweaters, pants and even jeans. Best sellers include the highly-rated chafe-proof Apex Trunks by Kelly Slater ($271, made from recycled polyester) and the simple Sojourn pocket tee with relaxed neckline ($90, made from 100% Organic Peruvian Pima Cotton).
Outerknown also offer a broad product range for women, from dresses and jumpsuits through to sweatshirts and outerwear. Its best sellers include the S.E.A Suit, a lightweight utilitarian jumpsuit ($314, made from 51% organic cotton and 49% linen) and the loose-fit button-up Costa Shirt ($183, 100% organic cotton).
Beyond its on-point designs, Outerknown’s ethical and transparent business practices are also finding favour with a growing base of socially and environmentally conscious consumers. The business has partnered with responsible manufacturing partners who uphold high labor standards and are certified with Fair Labor Association (FLA), Bluesign, and Fair Trade.
Then there’s the brand’s serious sustainability credentials. Almost all of the materials sourced are organic, recycled or regenerated. In its collections, customers will find designs made in organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and Tencel Lyocell, a eucalyptus tree fibre.
Committed to continuous improvement in its practice of sustainability, the brand is also also embracing circularity, aiming to design textile waste out of its collections.
“We’re in the process of publishing our 2030 roadmap to circularity on Outerknown.com. This will be live in early April and it feels great to be part of an organization that can strive to hit a higher mark each year as we work towards a zero-waste ultimate goal.”
Moore admits that when they first set out on their journey, many of their close friends and peers doubted their sustainability vision. But after five years of selling sustainable apparel, the founders have proven that placing welfare of people and environmental values at the heart of business need not be a deal breaker. For Outerknown, their people and planet values have been crucial to developing a successful brand in the 21st century.
“When we started this journey, sustainability in fashion was slim pickings, and it’s great to see responsible innovation catching on,” says Moore.
“I heard a stat on a podcast yesterday that across the globe, we made more than 114 billion items of clothing last year (2019). 114 billion. How many items of clothing is that for every human alone? So crazy.
“This [pandemic] crisis is going to make the fashion industry really consider what’s important moving forward. It will for sure mean making less clothing, and making only making what matters. This all gives me hope.”
To learn more or shop Outerknown, visit www.outerknown.com.
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Cover image via Outerknown.